by Jessica Hadus
Over the summer, I started interning at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum (SALH&M). The focus of my work then was devoted to helping with the plans for a new collections space, entering historical documents into Past Perfect, and preparing for the newest exhibit, At Home with the Harns. This semester, I am continuing my work with Past Perfect but also helping SALH&M keep their goal of preserving and maintaining their historic site by volunteering my time towards the current restoration project of the lens room.
At the top of the lighthouse is the original, 9 foot tall, 1st order Fresnel lens. In 1986, a vandal shot the lens creating damage to 19 of the 370 prisms. The Coast Guard originally decided to remove the historic lens and replace it. Although it would have been easier to do this, Joseph Cocking (USCG CWO-4) requested a delay of doing so giving him a chance to repair the lens with the fundraising help of the Junior Service League. The historic lens was back in operation on May 22, 1993.
Joe, who is now retired from the Coast Guard, is one of five lampists who are allowed to work on any Fresnel lenses belonging to the Coast Guard. He is now the Director of the Lighthouse Lamp Shop and is back to work on the lens again. Over the past two decades, advances in ways of preserving have made the work done in 1992 outdated. Joe, Kathleen McCormick (Director of Museum Conservation here at SALH&M)—and many volunteers like myself—have started on the restoration in the lens room. Being part of the team, and getting hands on experience with the man who helped lead the restoration before I was born, has helped me learn more about conservation, restoration, and how the lens itself works. I cannot wait to see the final product to be able to say that I was part of this restoration project.